Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa

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9780881337488: Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa
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1995 Margaret Mead Award winner! This personal account by a biocultural anthropologist illuminates important, not-soon-forgotten messages involving the more sobering aspects of conducting fieldwork among malnourished children in West Africa. With nutritional anthropology at its core, Dancing Skeletons presents informal, engaging and oftentimes dramatic stories from the field that relate the author’s experiences conducting research on infant feeding and health in Mali. Through fascinating vignettes and honest, vivid descriptions, Dettwyler explores such diverse topics as ethnocentrism, culture shock, population control, breastfeeding, child care, the meaning of disability and child death in different cultures, female circumcision, women’s roles in patrilineal societies, the dangers of fieldwork, and the realities involved in researching emotionally draining topics. Readers will alternately laugh and cry as they meet the author’s friends and informants, follow her through a series of encounters with both peri-urban and rural Bambara culture, and struggle with her as she attempts to reconcile her very different roles as objective ethnographer, subjective friend, and mother in the field. (Not-for-sale instructor resource material available to college and university faculty only; contact the publisher directly.)

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From the Publisher:

Also available by Katherine A. Dettwyler from Waveland Press: Cultural Anthropology and Human Experience: The Feast of Life (ISBN 9781577666813).

From the Inside Flap:

"Katherine Dettwyler has written an easily accessible and particularly vibrant description of life in modern Mali . . . It offers a vivid portrait of Malian people and places as well as a thoughtful account of the issues and problems that face anthropologists in the field." (African Studies Review, Vol. 38, No. 2, 1995)

". . . a sobering, painful look at problems of a still-poor developing country that will be particularly instructive to international public health workers, nutrition educators, planners and clinical nutritionists concerned with Third World problems. It is a recommended reading." (Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 1995)

"The ongoing critique of ethnography has, happily, changed the genre, and today real people walk the pages of the best ethnographies. Dettwyler's Dancing Skeletons is surely one of the best. The text emerges as an extended meditation on applied fieldwork as a gradual melding of people and meaning." (American Journal of Human Biology, Vol. 6, No. 5, 1994)

". . . this book has two main advantages. First, it engages the reader, because it is well written. Second, it offers a broad scope for discussion of academic and practical issues." (Journal of Biosocial Sciences, Vol. 27, 1995)

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